Tuesday, February 27, 2007

"The line is busy..."

At the moment it seems that hardly a day goes by without more rules, more bans, less freedom.

Today new legislation comes in that will increase the punishments for using a hand held mobile telephone while driving. We know that using a phone while driving drastically compromises a driver's concentration and dramatically increases the chances of an accident- indeed the chances are roughly comparable with the accident rate of drink driving. The trouble is that this is also true for hands free phone use too- which stays legal, for now.

Meanwhile in fact pedestrians suffer the same impairment of concentration, so presumably the same problems. Perhaps they might step into the road and get hurt? Shouldn't we prevent harm and ban mobile phone use unless people are in fact not mobile, but stationary? After all that is the logic of the legislation.

It is an absurd logic.

If the risks of mobile phone use are so high, then their use should be restricted unless the vehicle is stationary, because a car accident usually causes harm to other people. As far as any other restrictions on pedestrians are concerned- the risks of hurting others are much lower, so if you are prepared to take the consequences, then take the risk: and of course the state has nothing to say about this.

Monday, February 26, 2007

More Bl@@dy rules!

Oh No!

David Cameron announces that he intends to spend some vast amount of money "to improve border security".

The trouble is that every time John Reid or another one of these clowns starts making some meaningless grandstanding gesture it delays me another five minutes at the Airport when I come back into my own country.

On Saturday after a six hour delay in Copenhagen- an ice storm, and no, don't ask me why I was coming back from Tallinn via Copenhagen- I had to wait for over half an hour just to show my passport at the European channel.

I would like to congratulate the Home Secretary on his competence- but I can't.

Both Cameron and Reid are in the business of gestures.

Personally I would like to make a fairly strong two fingered gesture at them both.

Sunday, February 25, 2007

Liberals and Anti-Liberals

British politics is changing.

Traditional party politics is in long term decline.

Politicians have promised too much and delivered too little. Partly, this is because it is simply not possible for the political process to deliver the kind of outcomes that politicians and their voters expect. Disillusion and apathy are the order of the day- and political pragmatism has declined into the pursuit of power above any other interest. Many politicians will say- "of course it must be power above all else, otherwise how could we actually make any difference at all". The problem, though, is that power is concentrated in the hands of so few and is so jealously guarded that by the time that anyone gets close to the top they have forgotten what they wanted to change in the first place.

This concentration of power- economic as well as political- has reduced the power of the individual to impotence. Huge administrative bureaucracies, in almost every field, have acquired enormous powers to control. As people have lost control over their own lives they have given up on responsibility.

Liberals oppose this erosion of autonomy.

It is important, though, to notice the wide range of forms in which anti-Liberalism comes. The latest is that something must be done to prevent harm to others or themselves. I italicise this as the way in which freedom can be eroded so quickly. A good example is the story in today's paper about the obese child who may be taken away from his family.

By what right does the state break up a family?

The law that allows this is an insult to liberty- whatever the health consequences to the child.

Polly Toynbee is an anti Liberal- she believes that people must be protected from the consequences of their own actions. It is from this anti-Liberal position that the great "protective bureaucracies" have been created. The removal of personal autonomy has removed personal liberty, and the result is a rootless and dis-empowered population.

A backlash is coming- the electorate resent the platitudes and the bromides of a political class that does not even understand its own impotence. The electorate resents the lack of control that they have over politics. Millions of people may oppose a policy- say road pricing- but their views will be entirely ignored -save for a patronising e-mail from the Prime Minister.

The end of Socialist ideology in British politics should not have meant the end of all ideology. There are key principles that are implicit in the way our constitution has been established- and the most important- rule of law, habeus corpus (that the state may not imprison without trial)- are based on limiting the rights of the state to act arbitrarily.

The encroachment of the bureaucratic state into wider spheres must now be reversed. Liberals believe that the time has come to create a new contract between the state and its citizens. The citizens have rights, the state has duties. The state must give back power to the citizen and instead of talking about relative poverty we must talk about absolute freedoms. There should be a safety net for the unfortunate, but not one that lasts forever and traps people in welfare dependency. The state does not have the moral right to any body's wealth, no matter how wealthy they may be. The state must stop being a player on the pitch and become simply the referee.

In practical terms, politicians can not save people from themselves, and they should not be trying to do so. Freedom is the right to do as you please and the obligation to take the consequences. We have created a nanny state, smothering free citizens with our concern and our moral certainty. It is time to inject more yang into the mixture- discipline and self reliance are not bad qualities, and we must stand up for these as well the positive nurturing qualities in our citizens. Yet these can not be promoted by statute- and it will take time for society to adjust.

When I listen to Cameron or Brown, I hear anti-Liberals: "something must be done".

Both will fail.

The task for Liberal Democrats is to make the case for personal autonomy.

To make the case for the great repeal act.

To make the case for the abolition of large parts of Whitehall.

To make the case for responsible choices- greener choices, ethical choices- and to ensure that the full economic and social costs of unethical or ungreen choices are reflected in their prices (not, you may notice to deny choice, but simply to reflect the relative costs and benefits of those choices).

To make the case for local control of local affairs- including health and education

To make the case for a Liberal state, based on freedom.

For only freedom will engage citizens with their own state.

Friday, February 23, 2007

Snowflakes

Once again I return to Tallinn- clear and cold.

I am here to receive the Order of the Cross of Terra Mariana- the senior order of the Estonian Republic. I attended the ceremony this afternoon, with around two hundred other recipients of various decorations: from the Metropolitan of the Estonian Orthodox church to a little girl who had made a real contribution to her community.

As we await the President of the Estonian Republic there is for several moments a total silence. It is a typically Estonian moment and I reflect how rarely a crowd ever falls completely still. President Ilves' speech is slightly defensive, reflecting the fact that the list is much shorter this year and many who had thought that they were due, did not get recognised.

As my turn comes I greet the President with thanks and take the award. I am proud and touched, but somehow sad. I thought of the many Estonians who I first met in the early 1980s who never lived to see the free republic restored. In particular I think of Anna Taru, who was the last person to run the old Estonian Legation- she had been, I think, the Minister's personal assistant. She befriended me and humoured my early interest in her country. I wonder what she might have made of this- I hope that she would be happy. I think of my family, who were not able to come. I hope, perhaps, that they too are happy with the way that what might have seemed my my slightly strange interest has worked out.

Although several of my friends have received awards none of them were collecting them today, but I take a glass of wine and listen in to other conversations. A jazz duo on piano and saxophone play. I recognise many Estonian tunes, including Raimond Valgre's "Snowflakes", which, although jaunty and cheerful, is said to have been written (in English) to remind people of the soldiers who were dying in 1941.

Several members of the Kaitseliit- the territorial defence force- received awards for service in Afghanistan, and others were life savers, teachers, blood donors - all the generally unsung heroes of a society that works well.

This place is special to me. These people, stolid, independent, taciturn, have I realise, inspired me for much of my adult life. Sometimes childish and petty, sometimes wise and strong, this culture, language and attitude reflect much that I respect and admire. Serious, honest, worthy- but with a sly and dark humour, the hard working Estonians touched me long ago. I realise that this award means perhaps more to me than I first thought, especially when it is offered with such sincerity.

Tanän väga kallis Eestlased !

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Revealing State Secrets

Lech Walesa may be in many ways a flawed man- certainly his strangled syntax in Polish contributed to his demise as President- however he has never lacked courage.

He climbed the fence of the Lenin Shipyard in Gdansk in 1980 and led the strike that brought free trade unions to Communist Poland and ultimately created the conditions for freedom across Central Europe.

Walesa was arrested during the crackdown that led to martial law in 1981 and spent a year in gaol. He was and is a genuine hero for a lot of people across the world.

Yet the current regime has criticised Walesa for permitting some members of the former regime's security services to keep their jobs- no wonder he called his successor "a blockhead".

The twins have not taken kindly to this- under a law they themselves passed not long ago, "defaming" the President of the Republic carries a five year prison sentence. I don't think that these idiots would actually put Walesa on trial. If they did, they would make a hero of him a second time.

Perhaps though the trial is not about defamation- calling President Kaczynski an idiot might well be classified as "revealing state secrets", were it not for the fact that everyone knows it already.

Monday, February 19, 2007

Liam Fox is a blundering Oaf

The Daily Telegraph puts forward an assertive position against Russian President Vladimir Putin in today's Op-Ed page.

However it is a bit much to see praise lavished upon the oafish and blundering Liam Fox.

The Tory Defence Spokesman may speak out against the right target- the bullying crassness of the Putinists. However his inaccurate and boorish criticism of our new NATO allies in central Europe has alienated many potentially key allies in the battle against the new brutalism in the Kremlin.

While I am happy to agree with the Telegraph that "once you start paying the Danegeld, you never get rid of the Dane"- Fox is a blunderer who should be removed from his position before he does any more damage.

Friday, February 16, 2007

Vultures gathering

Vulture funds are those who invest in difficult situations, such as following a credit default and then squeeze a higher return through a variety of different legal methods. Usually the defaulted credit is a bankrupt company.

However as the Telegraph reports this morning, a Vulture Fund: Donegal International, registered in the British Virgin Islands, has managed to put the squeeze on a deeply impoverished Southern African state: Zambia.

After paying $2 million to the original creditor (in this case, Romania) to gain control over the $15 million credit, Donegal has used a loophole in the agreement to write off Third World Debt to buy a government debt which can be written off by the borrower, and convert it into a private sector debt, which may not. Accordingly Donegal has sued in court for repayment of the full amount plus interest- $28 million.

No, perhaps surprisingly I don't believe that this trade should be banned- that's Capitalism, baby- I would now act rapidly to close the loophole though.

I would, however, like to know the names and affiliations of those who own and control Donegal International.

Personally I would send them to Coventry- boycott them and their firms. This is a nasty immoral deal and those who originated it should be revealed as the unscrupulous and immoral people they are, and then treated accordingly.

A boycott ought to cost the backers of this nasty deal a lot more than they can ever make out of Zambia.

And that's Capitalism too (baby).

"And Conservatism"

Oh dear.

David Cameron on the radio this morning:

We believe in freedom AND compelling fathers to stay with families.

Freedom And Compulsion?

That has got to be pretty dangerous, given the number of men who are violent and abusive. Not to mention the not insignificant number of mothers and kids who don't know who the father is...

Muddle headed thinking like this does not bode well.

Thursday, February 15, 2007

"So you're a Conservative really..aren't you?

From Time to time recently I have been invited onto Iain Dale's show on the Conservative blogging TV channel 18 Doughty St. Even though the show is late, I have usually come from work, so I am in my business suit, and yes, I am dressed like an investment banker- well guilty as charged.

I think that this may have lulled my Conservative hosts into believing that I am "really" a Conservative.

However I joined the old Liberal Party as a teenager, and I have maintained my belief in Liberalism as an ideological approach to politics all my adult life.

Cameron's version of the Conservative Party seems to comprise a lot of nice public school chaps who are very keen on helping the disadvantaged- "those less fortunate than ourselves". These "Compassionate Conservatives" drip with concern for their fellow citizens. Last night one of the panel was exactly such an example of a "Compassionate Conservative"- he works in the voluntary sector in the inner cities, but is looking for a seat to fight for the Conservatives.

However as we discussed things, it did show that Cameron has changed the Tories- unfortunately he has changed them into Socialists! I have not heard such a confused attack on the values of the free market since Derek Hatton left politics. While I saw Iain Dale wincing a bit, I was more and more astonished, and Iain is far less the face of the modern Conservatives than these public school chaps. (I use the word "modern" in its broadest sense of course.)

I also see the problem for the "compassionates"- and the clue is in the name. They "want to help" "the unfortunate", but they do not understand them- they are old fashioned paternalists- "we can solve your problems".

I have no such ambition. I want people to have enough freedom and control over their own lives that they can solve their problems themselves. These dripping wet Tories are going to be big staters- "we must do something about...[insert the blank]"- and will continue the damaging centralisation of Blair and Major alike.

When I suggest that a more open political system might help, the Tories try to sound like Liberal Democrats: but the acid test is real political reform, and the Tories don't get it.

The Conservatives do not want to change the system, they only want to control it.

I and my party are a bit like the peasants with the pitchforks- We want to break Whitehall's overbearing centralized control, and unlike the Conservatives, the Liberal Democrats have definite and specific policies about how to start this process.

As for the Tories: "The road to Hell is paved with good intentions", and as the intellectual failings of Cameron's circle of friends and their half baked ideas becomes more apparent, then I think we might see plenty of Conservatives deciding that they are "really" Liberal.

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

What is the Unicef wellbeing index really measuring?

UNICEF have published a list of industrialised countries ranked by the "well being" of their children- and the UK is at the bottom.

Cue breast beating, ashes and sack cloth.

Cue a government minister saying that the statistics are out of date (the "we don't wet the bed anymore" defence).

Cue left wing academic claiming that social inequality and the "dog eat dog society" is the root cause of our children's misery.

Oh, am I being a bit cynical? Well these kind of reports do seem to have become rather ritualised, and I don't really know what they do except tell us what we know already: our social problems hit kids the hardest.

Given that every government claims to be putting the welfare of our children first, it is a pretty miserable outcome to see that our kids get drunk more, use drugs more, have more teenage pregnancies, less family life, are poorer and have lower self esteem than the other 19 industrialised countries.

On the other hand is this the fault of the government or indeed any government?

The fact is that there is not that much that any politician can do directly to support family life- that is a question for the families themselves- especially parents. If parents won't discipline their own kids, then we have a problem.

I believe in an agenda of personal autonomy: that citizens have the right to do what they please within fairly broad legal limits- but the obligation to take the consequences. Give people back their sense of control and they will quickly learn the necessary disciplines.

In a Britain where the government can even ignore the House of Commons, there is too much power at the centre and that must be curbed- now. Expanding government control "to deal with the shameful issue of child poverty" has not worked, will not work, and may even make things worse.

"Trust in the People, tempered with Prudence" was the Gladstonian motto- one worth reviving, I think.

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

The point of blogging

It is now nearly two years since I started blogging, firstly as a General Election candidate, and then after the election on this site.

The initial purpose was to share experiences about the campaign, which were by and large both positive and fun. When I began to blog here, I initially took a pretty broad remit, to talk about things that interested me from a broadly Liberal perspective. I wrote about books and authors that interested me, about places and in particular about Central and Eastern Europe and about British politics.

Since I have a senior role in an investment bank, working in Central and Eastern Europe, I have preferred to write anonymously, although many, if not most, in the blogosphere know who I am. Indeed I have twice been invited onto Iain Dale's 18 Doughty Street programme, so away from my professional life, I am not too worried about being "outed".

Over time, although I rarely have time to blog every day, I have come to concentrate more on political and the central and eastern European issues- not least because I believe that the UK can learn a great deal from the changes that have taken place in the post-Communist world and the social and economic changes that the Liberal revolutions have brought about.

The blog is not widely read- I get a couple of thousand hits a month, but the kinds of people who read it- judging from the Stat Counter results -are quite diverse. Only about half of the readers are British, and most are quite regular readers. Some are clearly Lib Dem activists, many are students. I also see regular readers in Parliament, the Scottish Parliament and the European Parliament. I have tended not to link to other sites- not out of policy, simply because I am a very slow learner on things techie, and so the bulk of readers either come directly or through Lib Dem blogs aggregated.

About a quarter of the readership is American- and I have been linked by Carnival of the Liberals twice in recent months. Perhaps not surprisingly I have regular readers in the Baltic countries, Poland, Hungary, Romania and various other CEE states. I also seem to have regular readers in Canada and New Zealand. So, although many will not accept the Stat Counter cookie, I have information about roughly 60% of the readers.

While I have been travelling, I notice that there has been an outbreak of venom in the blogosphere. Guido Fawkes has always had a bit of fun going for the throat, but when Tim Ireland attacked him for some of the things that he had written, I had a bit of sympathy. I met Guido and he struck me as a mildly subversive but slightly nihilist libertarian. However the after effects of this spat in the blogosphere was interesting. On the 18 Doughty Street show I put forward the view that Guido was a nihilist and did sometimes overstep the mark. This got conflated in other peoples minds with an attack by Iain on Tim Ireland- "isn't Tim a nihilist too?" (short answer no). This stirred up a general attack on Iain Dale, which was not really justified- Iain says that he does not actually know what a nihilist is! So, the blogosphere has been rocked by a total storm in a teacup.

I am reminded of Henry Kissinger once on being asked why academic disputes were conducted with such venom, he replied: "because the stakes are so low". Lets face it, blogging is still a small scale activity, and while we are in the growth phase now, there will inevitably come a crash and in the wreckage a smaller number of blogs will remain for the long term.

I intend to keep up this blog for was long as I think I am saying something interesting. At the moment I think that I maybe write something reasonable about once or twice a month- frankly the same sort of hit rate that a dead tree columnist does.

I try not to be the kind of pub bore that Yasmin Alibhai Brown thinks dominates the blogosphere, but reading her columns, she has plenty of off days too. Blogs may have the capacity to democratise the commentariat- a process as welcome as I think it is necessary. Sure there is discourtesy and venom out there, and looking at the US, this may not be a good trend for British politics to follow. However I hope that my blog will be outward looking, reasonably informed and hopefully occasionally even interesting. Certainly I try to respond to people with a different point of view to mine with reasonable politeness- after all I am friendly with people of all parties and of none.

So the agenda remains: Liberalism and Liberty, and I shall devote my time to that and not the trivial personal spats within the blogosphere.

Monday, February 12, 2007

Did he inhale or Blow?

I am now back, briefly, after charging about the Baltic over the past week, with only intermittant access to Blogger- why do so many public access connections seem to think Blogger is a hot porn site? Wierd huh?

The issue of the moment is, apparently not the distinct possiblity of another catastrophic disaster by George W Bush, but rather the boyish antics of Cameron of the Remove.

Of course it is no big deal if he smoked the odd spliff at Eton- or anywhere else. However, given that this biography was written from a largely friendly perspective, why do I feel that there is a lot more to this non-story?

At least 80% of us go "so Cameron smoked a spliff or few, so what?" However the issue may not be what he did at school, but what he may have done more recently.

Media and lobbying types have been known to set up a few lines of Colombian marching powder.

Did Mr. Cameron use something stronger than Cannabis, and a lot more recently?

Barack Obama admitted "a bit of blow"- is that what this is all about?

To be honest, I smoked a few spliffs when younger- and statistics show that actually many, if not most of us, have done so.

However, I have never done Charlie- I have seen too many coked up psychos on dealing floors in the City to want to go there. The effects are Not Good. Incidentally one persistent after effect is a bad temper- not an ideal characteristic for a person in charge of a nuclear arsenal: American or British.

So now we can watch the code: when the journalists ask to Cameron to "come clean about his drug use" they do not mean whether he inhaled at Eton or at Oxford: we already know that he did.

No, the question is all about the drug of choice for media lobbyists.

Someone knows for sure whether Cameron and/or his associates did this. While the old media have never its own hypocrisy get in the way of a good story, perhaps we should be more worried about whether it is true and that we don't find out soon.

Were Cameron to get into office with such a juicy skeleton then someone will use it against him. After all, when John Major was PM, his adultery was known to some people- and maybe they used it- it might, for example, explain the slow exit of many of his scandal tainted ministers. It might explain worse things.

So actually Mr. Cameron, on this issue you are not entitled to privacy: if you were on the hard stuff, that is more than a "youthful indiscretion", and we are entitled to know and to judge accordingly.

Thursday, February 08, 2007

Winter chill

As I have come north from Lithuania, the weather has grown more wintry.

Riga, yesterday was down to about minus 10, and catching the early flight up to Tallinn this morning has brought me to even chillier climbs: it is currently minus 19. I will not make smug comments about the chaos that a little snow and temperatures of about zero have brought to London. It just irritates me that when winter comes to Southern England, their disorganization makes the tiny problem into a crisis.

It is the first time that I have done all three Baltic Capitals in a single week for some years. It is interesting seeing the relative progress. Despite Labour shortages which, in Vilnius, mean that there are very few taxis, the overall picture is extremely positive. The construction boom in Vilnius is particularly impressive. Meanwhile Riga has become a bustling hub for the whole region with plenty of flights across Europe, and now beyond, offered by airBaltic, the SAS owned dynamic little airline. Ryanair are looking to make Riga a regional hub too, with the prospect of a whole new second terminal being constructed. Compared to the bright lights of Riga, Tallinn seems a little sleepy, but energetic young entrepreneurs are creating a very impressive change in the economy.

Though there are concerns that Latvia might be overheating economically, it is hard to find any particular trigger that would cause immediate disruption. Though times are particularly buoyant, and a slow down will come soon (ish), there is still much to admire in all three countries. Not least their ability to cope with bad winter weather!

Meanwhile I received a phone call yesterday from a friend at the British Embassy in Tallinn. Rather charmingly, the President of Estonia has decided to confer a decoration on me to celebrate the 89th anniversary of the founding of the Republic. I am touched and also delighted to see that several friends have also received (probably much more deserved) recognition too.

Monday, February 05, 2007

Lithuania in the cold

I am back in Vilnius, meeting with a broad selection of the great and good in Lithuanian finance. In the rather damp thaw- about +1 degree- I consider what makes Lithuania rather different from the other two Baltic Countries.

Culturally Catholic, as opposed to Protestant, it has been far successful in preserving hierarchies through the various political upheavals of the past two decades. In that sense the Lithuanians feel more similar to Poles and other Central Europeans- the generation in its fifties still has control: in Estonia, and to a lesser extent in Latvia the ruling generation is on average in its late thirties.

The Hierarchy can be seen in all forms of life- in education, politics and in business. Perhaps this is why I somehow get a sense of anti-climax here. The City of Vilnius has changed much- but not as much as Riga or Tallinn. The economy has done well- but not as well as Estonia or Latvia.

Talking to my friends, I sense a growing frustration with the political class- the departure of the septuagenarian Algirdas Brazauskas from the Prime Ministers Office is necessary but not sufficient. Lithuania is struggling to feel its way forward, but in the dripping icicles on the baroque churches of this lovely city, I sense an atmosphere of change.

Asian flu

As the slaughter of a mind blowingly large number of Turkeys proceeds apace in East Suffolk, the prospect of Avian flu in the UK has finally come.

Avian flu, though, is not the only dangerous threat emerging from Asia.

The economic numbers from China make for some sobering reading.

At the moment we are accustoming to viewing China as a great success story- a huge advance has been made across the country in terms of economic prosperity since the reforms of Deng-Xhouping ended the bloody debacle of Maoism. A gigantic shift in production has moved the industrial production of whole sectors into China. As a result, China has been able to acquire significant reserves.

Yet, the Emperor has no clothes. The key to much of the recent growth in China has been the state banking system. Though the free market has extended across much of the country, it has not advanced enough in the Chinese banking system. credit controls are lax, to say the least and with limited bankruptcy procedures there are many Chinese industrial behemoths that are essentially zombie companies. Chinese companies are selling motorcycles in Vietnam, for less than scrap value, so it is quite clear that gigantic bad debts are building up inside the Chinese economy, and, especially its banking system.

The willingness to take the inevitable pain that real reform would bring is simply missing- the Party, aware that it has many problems to cope with lacks the political legitimacy to tackle them. Corruption continues unabated.

There are now estimates that the total bad debts inside the Chinese economy are larger than the total external assets that China possesses.

The question now is not whether China can sustain its drastic dash for growth- it is obvious that it can not. No, the real question is how can China complete the final adjustment to incorporate free market banking and ultimately liberal politics.

In 1908, the Manchu Empire proclaimed that they would move to a constitutional monarchy by 1917. This was preempted by the 1911 Republican revolution. As the wrenching strains develop in a country where increasing prosperity is considered a right, the regime of the Red Emperors is now beginning to look unstable.

China faces considerable instability- economic and political. With the incompetent incumbent in the White House, I do not believe that the West has considered the full implications of what this could mean- for China and the World.

Friday, February 02, 2007

Off target

OK- lets not get too worked up- so the British Police are sniffing around the cash for honours allegations.

So The British Prime Minister has been questioned twice.

So several close associates and members of his staff have been arrested, and subsequently released without charge.

So the circumstantial evidence points quite strongly to honours having been offered in exchange for cash support of various New Labour causes.

So too circumstances seem to show that several people have given contradictory accounts to the Police, to the point that the arrests have been more on conspiracy to pervert the cause of justice- i.e. a cover-up- rather than the original allegations themselves.

A little ironic no?

This is the government that made the most disastrous foreign policy decision in 50 years and is now caught in the Iraq imbroglio to the cost of thousands of dead and injured and billions of dollars and no idea what to do next.

This is the government that wasted two pounds for every three it allocated to the NHS.

This is the government that robbed millions of pensions savings in order to fund its current expenditure.

This is the government that has saddled future generations with open-ended PFI commitments.

This is the government that robbed Railtrack shareholders in a botched nationalisation and then undermined the entire railways investment cycle through simple incompetence in handling the franchise auctions.

This is the government that prefers CCTVs to Police; grandstanding rather than a genuine set of workable policies to tackle crime. Wasting billions on ID cards and grandiose and pointless IT projects to making cost effective decisions.

This is the government that has prefers the banal outpourings of their chosen focus groups to any kind of principle.

And at the end of it all... the final whimper is that Labour MPs having voted for all of the above now get exercised by a few questions from a politically astute investigating officer.

The charge sheet is long indeed, but Yates of the Yard, in the fairly unlikely event that he presses charges will not be reading the really scandalous charges.

"This is the way the world ends / Not with a bang, but a whimper."